Pope Francis praised the late Bishop David O’Connell for his years as a priest and bishop in LA in a special condolence message made public March 1.

The pope’s message was read by Archbishop José H. Gomez during opening remarks before a packed crowd at a special memorial Mass Wednesday night at St. John Vianney Church in Hacienda Heights, the parish where Bishop O’Connell lived.

“Deeply saddened to learn of the untimely and tragic death of Auxiliary Bishop David O’Connell, His Holiness Pope Francis sends heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to you, the clergy, religious, and lay faithful of the Archdiocese,” read the message signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

The message was delivered to Archbishop Gomez by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S., earlier this week.

The pope praised O’Connell’s ministry as a priest and bishop for being “marked especially by his profound concern for the poor, immigrants, and those in need, his efforts to uphold the sanctity and dignity of God’s gift of life, and his zeal for fostering solidarity, cooperation, and peace within the local community.”

Francis also prayed that those honoring O’Connell’s memory “be confirmed in the resolve to reject the ways of violence and overcome evil with good.”

“To those gathered for the Mass of Christian burial and to all who mourn Bishop O’Connell’s loss in the sure hope of the resurrection,” the message concluded, “the Holy Father cordially imparts his blessing as a pledge of peace and consolation in the Lord.”

The Mass at St. John Vianney was hosted by the archdiocese’s San Gabriel Pastoral Region, which Bishop O’Connell oversaw as episcopal vicar from 2015 until his death last month. An all-day public viewing for O’Connell at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was planned for Thursday, March 2, as well as a 7 p.m. vigil Mass.

The funeral Mass for O’Connell will take place at 11 a.m. Friday, March 3 at the Cathedral, followed by a private burial in the Cathedral crypt. More than 20 bishops are expected to attend, Angelus has learned.